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Domestic Violence in Louisiana by the Numbers
by Debra Faircloth
Is family violence really a problem in Louisiana? Look at the numbers and then decide for yourself.
A 2002 study by the nationally respected research team of Tjaden and Theonnes found that 90,000 Louisiana women experience partner-related physical assaults each year.
On any given day in Louisiana about 1000 survivors of family violence seek services from the state's 18 domestic violence programs. Many of those who come looking for help are turned away because there aren't enough beds, enough personnel, or enough funds to serve them.
Between 1997 and 2009, there was at least 1 domestic homicide in each of Louisiana's 64 parishes. Of course, in some of our parishes, there were numerous intimate partner murders.
Last year, Louisiana's domestic violence programs provided more than 90,000 shelter nights. These same agencies also received 38,000 crisis calls.
Although men can also be victims of family violence, Louisiana women are murdered at a rate about 40% higher than the national average. Louisiana is also high in multiple-death family violence incidents. Multiple-death incidents include murder-suicide scenarios and family destroyer murders, murders in which the perpetrator kills everybody--the wife, the children, the in-laws, even the pets. Ten percent of the time, innocent bystanders are killed in these multiple victim events. On occasion, the perpetrator's family colludes with him in order to accomplish the murders.
Currently, Louisiana has 18 shelters. Not so long ago, we had 20. South Carolina, a state similar to ours in population, has 24 shelters. Oregon and Oklahoma, each with a million fewer residents than Louisiana, both have more shelters than we do. Oklahoma has appeared only once in the top 5 most lethal states in the past 5 years and only one other time in the top 10. Oregon, on the other hand, did not appear in the top 10 in that same time frame. It has held placements as diverse as 16th, 28th, 34th, 41st, and 46th.
This year, Louisiana ranks fourth in the number of women killed by men who said they loved them. Louisiana has consistently ranked in the top 5 most dangerous states for women since 1997. We've been first at least twice. We frequently fall second or third.
90,000 Louisiana women injured annually, 90,000 shelter nights last year, 1000 victims a day seeking help, fourth in the nation this year in domestic homicides--these numbers clearly establish a need for family violence services. But, with recent budget cuts, our specialized domestic violence programs are themselves at risk. When a community loses family violence services, other community systems--like law enforcement and the courts--feel the strain. Further cuts could result in shelter closures. Then, the communities they once helped will go without crucial services.
If you want to help Louisiana's family violence programs serve our state's at-risk families, call your local shelter and ask what you can do. In Grant Parish, call me at 899-5296 or Google LCADV, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and visit their web site. No one in our state should ever be afraid to go home.
Debra Faircloth currently works as DART's Grant Parish rural advocate. She often writes and trains on domestic violence issues in Louisiana.